Lemon Balm Ice Cream

These are the balmy days. After a slow, wet & cold start to the month, the skies have cleared, and the air is swimmingly soft and sweet. The days start cool and end cool and warm up enough in the middle to bake the dew out of the wild new grass. My town is maddeningly filled with the fragrance of lilac and linden and locust.

These days are a gift, and they’re also a balm. Soothing and healing after the drawing in and closing down of winter. For humans, cold and darkness and rain can be difficult. Dreary days lead to dreary moods (and I think that’s ok. The occasional dreary mood might be as important as rain and rest). But the growing plants don’t mind about the rain. They don’t mind the wet weather, and the creeping warmth. They will wake from their slumber and grow and thrive and glow and they don’t care how we care about it. For them the warm weather is inevitable, and the rain and the colder days are as well. Inevitable and necessary.

The sun will come, the rain will come, the earth will freeze and thaw, and freeze and thaw again. And the only thing that will disturb it is the action of humans, feeling sad on a rainy day, disrupting the pattern with our nonsense.

The lemon balm in my garden is thriving. Vibrant, verdant. Lush. Lemon balm has a pretty history of honeybees and happiness. In ancient Greece it was grown to attract and maintain honeybees: it was believed that bees wouldn’t move their hive if lemon balm grew nearby. Throughout history it was thought to expel melancholy vapors, and to make the heart and brain merry. According to fellow-magpie John Gerard (1545-1612) it “Comforts the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness.” It is hopeful to me, as a human, to see it looking so healthy. So, naturally, I grabbed handfuls of the leaves and thought, how will I consume this?

I will make ice cream! And If I’m honest, which I always am, this ice cream is a very perfect thing. Simple and flavorful. In regards to food, my mind always wanders to “What can I add, how can I make this different and better?” With this ice cream, the answer is …. nothing. It doesn’t need anything. It’s a very small reflection of the glowing, balmy restorative days that we have to accept with gratitude; a distillation of the bright coolness, the sharp scent of new green growth, and the creamy sweetness of perfect air.

It’s possible that there were a few fresh mint leaves mixed with my lemon balm, but I think that only made the flavor more pleasant. You can also make a natural mint ice cream following this recipe but using only mint leaves. It will be a lovely pale golden green.

2 cups milk
4 or 5 thick sprigs fresh lemon balm, cleaned and dried–a few big handfuls
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Steep the lemon balm sprigs in the milk…warm them together in a medium-sized saucepan. Once the milk starts bubbling slightly set them aside for at least half an hour. After that time, lift the lemon balm out of the milk and set it in a strainer over the pot. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze it in your hands over the milk. Discard the lemon balm, and put the milk back on a burner over medium-low heat.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt till they’re light and frothy.

When the milk is just steaming, pour it in a thin stream into the eggs, which you will whisk vigorously the whole time. When the mixture is all whisked together, return it to the pan and return it to the heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, for about five minutes. You don’t want it to boil or the eggs will curdle. It will become thicker and glossy, like light cream.

Remove it to a cool bowl, cover tightly, and chill for at least five hours.

When you’re ready to freeze it, add the heavy cream, and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s